Monday, November 4, 2013

INKBLOTS--What to do when someone doesn't like what you write

Writing and hunting turkey
'Blots: five of us on this chilly autumn evening, fire on the grate, Pinot Noir in the glass, and convivial work to be done. Patrick leads off with a short story, a space travel, Martian sci-fi yarn. Though this is not my preferred genre, P certainly does write with ease and intentionality. Ray Bradbury did a series of sci-fi short stories like this. Gene Wolfe is a favorite sci-fi author that P likes to read and finds inspiration from reading him (we all have authors that do this for us). How to write what you want and sell what you write, a book Skip Press P recommends, he reads to find helpful instruction in the craft of writing.

Doug Mc suggested I read otherwise than last, as usual. I explained some of the challenges I have faced with criticism of this manuscript, then I read from chapter 31 of HAMMER OF THE HUGUENOTS, the climactic rescue of Pierre Viret. There's always something to glean from critics, even when they don't get it right; they have still helped unearth areas where the piece can be improved. Alan commented about my use of toilet as an alternate to garderobe and the suggestion was that toilet is too modern and latrine might be better. Alan liked the wheelbarrow passing over different surfaces and the effect on Philippe concealed in the wheelbarrow. Maybe the beginning of the chapter may be a bit slow and could be tightened. I'll give serious consideration to that. Thanks, gents.

John reads from French Cousins. This is a warm grandfatherly narration of the life of his grandchildren, both American and French. John has done a wonderful job of giving us his grandchildren's perspective on fun things, in this case, Proctor Treats, free candy, all you can eat. I can see and hear more of the children bantering back and forth. John is using some fabrication--I would prefer to call it projection and combination--to give the children the ability to speak when they may have been too young to speak or to use the vocabulary he gives them. Pirate speak.

Alan takes us back to St Brendan and the 9th century. Alan is working on two ancient tales, 1st century prose but tonight its 9th century blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter). Ancient Irish tale, bring on the corned beef and cabbage (and boiled potatoes). Celtic Church, not connected to the RC church in any meaningful way. Mernoc walking on the water, blind, holding a lantern, living on a rocky island off the coast of Ireland. He and Brendan row to the promised land, like heaven. The Navigatio, in Latin. Brendan's navigation. Brendan makes a prophecy that three can join him in the boat but for two it will end badly. I love watching Alan, a dentist by day, as he sits on the edge of the love seat, holding his laptop cradled in his arms, enthusiasm in his tone and radiating on his face--I feel like this is what 'Blots is about at its very best. the Imago Dei, we, image bearers of God, we, different and diverse in genre, like giddy children--agitated and eager, lisping and laughing, awed and wondering--imitate our Creator with imaginative words woven together to delight each other. It doesn't get much better than this. This is so Beowulf! I feel like we are in the mead hall, the horn passing, the harp not far behind. Alan has been reading Lewis on narrative poetry--it shows.

Dougie Mc reads from his post-war tale, his characters in Georgia, late sixties, Vietnam in a rolling boil. D says he's writing just for himself right now. I think he may be on to something. Lewis maintained that we need to write what we need, if we are to write the most authentic, effective, enduring manner. I like the flashback to the hardware store proprietor's promise about the shotgun shells. Maybe more specific flashbacks to help build tension. Whine of mosquitoes. I wish readers could hear D do his turkey call imitation, not once but over and over. We asked how that was spelled. However he had spelled it, there were lots of red squiggly lines under the "word." This was an intensely detailed and nuanced man on the hunt, turkey hunt. Never switch from female turkey to Tom or he'll be gone in a heartbeat. This a classic example of writing what you know. D has hunted turkey, called them, blown their heads off, and bagged them. J says D uses his name Bruce too much. Alan commented that there are good visual description but more smells would help, pine forest, swamp smells, exhaust from the pick up truck, gun oil.  

1 comment:

  1. We had the bonfire, OK the it was your fireplace. We had the mead, OK it was pinot and merlot. We had the sceops, Ok it was just us Inkblots. But it was interesting that you seemed to notice the connection between "Hwaet! We gardenas in geardagum," and, "So. Hear of our apostle, Eire's son." It was intentional. A good time.